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Copy Right and Copy Wrong

By Stacy Smith

Even writers who are new to the world of freelancing know about plagiarism. However, there is a lot more to plagiarizing than simply taking someone else’s work and saying it’s yours. In today’s high-tech world, it’s more essential than ever to check your writing. Failing to do so can cost you a job, or be grounds for a lawsuit against you.

One of the biggest mistakes new writers make is not citing their sources for facts. Just like when you wrote your college papers, if you are directly quoting a fact, you have to cite your source. Don’t assume that everyone knows who ranked a car as safest last year. As the writer, you are responsible for making sure there is no red flag content. Not crediting a source is the same as plagiarizing.

Don’t be paralyzed by the fear of plagiarism, however. Technology also makes it easier than ever to review your work. And articles do not need Roman numerals or a reference page at the end. These guidelines can help you keep your work plagiarism-free.

Check with Copyscape
Copyscape is the go-to tool for writers, editors, and clients. It is a low-cost, online plagiarism checker. Most if not all of your employers will run your work through this program, so save yourself some stress and follow suit before you submit your writing to the client.

To get started, visit the Copyscape website. You have to make an account and buy credits, but you can choose how many suits your needs. After your account is ready, simply copy and paste your writing into the box, and Copyscape takes care of the rest. Review any results that come back and make the necessary changes.

Paraphrase Properly
If you need to explain a definition or concept, paraphrasing can be your best friend. It’s important to understand exactly what paraphrasing means, however, to use it correctly. Paraphrasing is taking someone else’s ideas and restating it in your words. You can’t simply change a few words in a paragraph and call it yours, though. The structure of the sentence has to be as unique as the words.

Paraphrasing also doesn’t give a writer a free pass not to site sources. Never paraphrase a statistic that you need to credit a source for. You also need to credit a source you are paraphrasing from, because even though it is in your words, the information is from someone else.

What to Cite
If you are feeling paralyzed by the weight of plagiarism, take a deep breath. Not everything has to be cited. Anything that is entirely in your own words does not need a citation, because you are the author. Facts that have been around for a long time and are considered a universal truth do not need citations, either. You don’t need to Define incite electricity, for example.

A Word About Self-Plagiarism
Let’s say you get an assignment which is very similar to one you had a few months earlier. It may be tempting to reuse that material. After all, you wrote it, so it’s not plagiarism, right?

Yes and no. Although you wrote the information, if you sold it to a client, it is no longer yours unless you retained the rights. According to grammarly.com, self-plagiarism is “submitting your own previous work as part of a current assignment without permission.” In other words, treat it as though you didn’t write it.

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